Home Trade Shows The Pros and Cons of Virtual Events

The Pros and Cons of Virtual Events

CE China in Guangzhou, China in 2019.

Even though many parts of the U.S. are loosening mask restrictions, many trade shows are still being held as virtual events. California is set to lift most of its COVID-era rules on June 15, but the annual E3 Expo, which usually gathers the video game industry every June in Los Angeles, is nevertheless being held this week as an online virtual event only. 

Virtual events, for now, remain the primary way that the consumer electronics and appliance industries gather to find out about new trends, see new products, meet people, and hear panelists and keynote speakers. By some estimates, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s platform has helped third-party sellers generate more than $20 billion in B2B e-commerce sales over the past year, with consumer electronics and appliances among the most in-demand categories. The company has leaned into the virtual gathering space with its regular online tradeshows for B2B buyers and sellers–including many small-to-medium-sized U.S. businesses and manufacturers–to connect. 

Last month, Messe Berlin, which owns Dealerscope publisher CT Lab Global Media, announced that it would not hold its annual IFA Berlin consumer electronics and appliance trade show in September, but would resume its in-person event in September 2022 instead. Even so, IFA will move forward with its annual CE China event, which gathers CE and appliance brands looking to break into retail markets in Asia, in Guangzhou in person in September. 

Earlier today, IFA Director Dirk Koslowski was invited to speak at this week’s Alibaba.com Online Trade Show Summer, which runs from today through June 27th, to talk about the future of trade shows, including the pros and cons of virtual versus in-person events. Here’s what he said, which can also be seen and heard in the video below.

“I’d like to start with a big thank you to alibaba.com for inviting me to the launch of their online trade show today.

IFA  Berlin, CE China, and alibaba.com can look back at the fantastic cooperation. Most recently, this January with our alibaba.com electronics online trade show meets IFA event, where we were joined by IFA’s strategic partners, GfK, and Dealerscope.

Having said that, we all know the realities. Global travel restrictions, worries about new COVID variants, and, in too many countries, a slow rollout of vaccination programs.

That’s why, unfortunately, this year we’ll see only a few, if any, large-scale trade fairs. And that’s a blow, not just for our industry, but for the world at large.

We are manufacturers and brands, retailers, media, and–let’s not forge–the public. We need industry events like IFA to come back. We need them to turbocharge the pace of innovation and to drive co-innovation, which can happen only in places where people meet, where they compare notes and really inspire each other. 

And that’s why I know that soon we will all meet again, but this time in person, either at the next alibaba.com event in China or here in Berlin at IFA Berlin. Or, let’s say, at IFA’s own brand event for China. You know it well by now: It’s CE China in Guangzhou.

In just a few years, CE China has really become the premier event to connect Chinese brands and global brands with consumers all across Asia.

And that is so important, because if there’s one positive aspect of this pandemic, then it’s how our industry–the technology industry–has rallied, innovated, and really stepped up its game to support people around the world that had to live and work during the travel restrictions and lockdowns.  

Can you imagine our world if this pandemic had happened 10 or 15 years ago? The challenge of keeping economies around the world interconnected would have been absolutely overwhelming. During the past 18 months, however, it was technology that kept us productive, safer, healthier, connected and entertained.

As we emerge into a new world, nobody knows quite yet what this life will look like, but we can be certain of two things. First, it will be very different from our lives back in 2019, and secondly, it will be underpinned by innovation. Both alibaba.com and IFA Berlin have one common goal: To give retailers and consumers access to the best products and to the best innovation possible. 

Asia and Europe are also the world’s two largest markets for consumer technology. That’s another reason why alibaba.com and IFA Berlin are such a winning combination. 

I wish you a great virtual tradeshow. And I’m really looking forward to 2022, when I hope to welcome all of you at the world’s most important event for consumer electronics and household appliances–and that’s at IFA in Berlin.”